Connecting Climate Minds: Climate change and mental health

Yesterday I was invited to attend a virtual dialogue and the start of a community of practice looking at climate change and mental health. The dialogue was part of a year-long Wellcome Trust-funded global project – Connecting Climate Minds – which aims to catalyse research and action at the nexus of climate change and mental health. The project is hosting dialogues in different regions all over the world to draw from as wide a range of experiences as possible.

The event I took part in included over 50 people from all around Australia and the Pacific with a goal to start developing a research and action agenda addressing key gaps in understanding the links between climate change and mental health. The next dialogue in October will start looking at actionable ways forward which will feed into global spaces such as COP28 and the World Health Assembly.

It was so interesting to hear from others about their experiences and knowledge from working and being personally impacted from climate change. It’s clear that climate change impacts are only gathering pace as are the impacts on people’s wellbeing – and there are some big research gaps. I think the global co-learning approach of this project is a positive way forward. If you’re interested in keeping up with this project, please fill in the contact form or send an email to the project manager (Suhailah Ali at 

One topic that came up was positive adaptions to climate change, empowering people and the messaging associated with that. We are seeing this approach to some extent in agricultural projects that focus on providing the tools and promoting strategies for producers to take control and proactively make on-farm decisions around future climate impacts such as drought.

These practice focused projects and programs are important however, I’m wondering if there might be an opportunity to more overtly include social and wellbeing outcomes? For example, as part of my PhD research, Australian farming women indicated that they experienced a positive impact on their wellbeing as a result of taking action to change farming practices to better deal with climate extremes – particularly drought. How can links between taking action in relation climate impacts and improving mental health be better made in the rural and agricultural space? If this could be done, would it encourage more on farm climate adaptations? I’d be interested to hear what you think (

Jeff Coutts is a co-author of a chapter in the recently on-line published book:  “Rural Development for Sustainable Social-ecological Systems: Putting Communities First”.

Abstract: This chapter presents a brief but critical account of trends in agricultural extension practices in Australia. Agricultural extension practices have changed significantly over the past five decades. Structural changes in agriculture, new types of agricultural technologies, tight public budgets, efforts to decentralise government and emerging information and communication technologies (ICT) have led to pluralistic advisory services. Earlier research has described the history of agricultural extension until 2010 in Australia. Using a ‘practice perspective’, this paper focuses on the practices of practitioners in agricultural extension. The chapter starts with a discussion of what extension refers to in Australia. This is followed by a brief outline of the history of agricultural extension in Australia providing insight into the diversity of current extension practices. Then the key methodological approaches that inform current extension practices are described, namely approaches that focus on (1) adoption and diffusion; (2) interactions and learning; and (3) agricultural innovation systems and systems innovation. The paper concludes with a discussion of new developments in extension practices as well as opportunities to strengthen and re-invigorate the study of extension.

Link to the journal article:

International workshop for education and advisory actors of rural areas, the agricultural and environmental sector, including the home and food economy

The networks International Academy for Rural Advisory Services (IALB), European Forum for Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services (EUFRAS) and South Eastern Europe Advisory Service Network (SEASN) as well as the Saxon State Office for Environment, Agriculture and Geology (LfULG) are organising an international workshop for education and advisory actors of rural areas, the agricultural and environmental sector, including the home and food economy, in Dresden from 10 to 14 September 2023. The theme is: The role of education and extension in the transformation process of agriculture – in the context of climate change, ensuring nutrition and societal demands.

Registration is from July 2023:

Australian Government Drought Plan

The Australian Government has posted the feedback it’s received from its first round of consultation on how to improve the next drought plan to support farmers and farming communities across the drought cycle . The 18 recommendations made in response to stakeholder feedback can be seen here with the next consultation round in 2024.

These findings are interesting for us as we work across a range of regional, state and national programs focused on drought resilience and climate change adaptations – particularly in the agricultural context. How the Australian Government approaches its drought planning impacts on the funding available and the types of projects that get run.

Recommendation 17 talks about including mechanisms on how information can be better shared in relation to drought impacts and responses across government and non-government players. We’ve seen the importance of this, particularly as people on the ground dealing with the impacts of drought day in and day out, can find the multitudes of projects and programs confusing in terms of what is being offered and how to access these offerings. Finding and developing synergies between programs and projects can only improve outcomes for those who are dealing with stressful drought situations and increase the effectiveness of funding.